It’s hard; but if you can forget about the estate tax!
Forget the estate tax just for a moment. Not that it doesn’t exist, it does, and depending on whose version of White House politics you believe, it will continue to pose a challenge for America’s agricultural community. But the imposition of estate taxes will not in and of itself destroy the family farm. In most cases, a well-versed advisory team can help an agribusiness owner avoid or at least minimize the estate tax obligation.
But inadequate estate planning is still the number one reason most farms do not pass to the next generation. That may sound ridiculous given that most farmers have some form of an estate plan, and there is no record of a single-family losing their farm due to the estate tax. The burden of estate taxes and transfer obligations is not insignificant. The costs can be considerable and the need for cash can be crippling.
Estate tax planning and Succession planning are not the same! Many people use the terms interchangeably, but as Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Common, off-the-shelf, estate planning techniques do not work if the goal is to pass the farm to the next generation as a going concern.
All too often we see people using the wrong tool for the job. If the only thing in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. But if you have a large cabinet with a selection of specialized tools you’re inclined to appropriately diagnose the problem and then apply the proper technique for the job.